Category Archives: Whales

The Tai Po Whale of 1914 and the Taipo Whale of 2014

I found another ‘gem’ while looking through old HK newspapers:

A Whale Now!

A reader informs us that a whale 23 feet [7m] in length was seen in Tolo Harbour, near Taipo, on Sunday [11th of May 1914], and that the police, from a launch, fired three rounds at the mighty creature, which however disappeared.”

Taken from the Hong Kong Telegraph 13th of May 1914
Taken from the Hong Kong Telegraph 13th of May 1914
How strange to think that back then the first reaction on seeing a big whale, was to pull out a gun and shoot it!

It struck me as quite interesting, that Tolo Harbor near Taipo was also the site the stranding of a 42-foot (13m) Omura’s whale in March 2014 – almost exactly 100 years later!

Tolo Harbor is almost completely enclosed by land so any whale erring into it is bound to get confused, I think.

The Macau Whale Stranding Febuary 3rd, 1933

Sometimes it is very amusing and interesting to realize how different we see the environment now in 2015 compared to our attitudes the last century. A case in point is this gem of a news article from 1933 about a 25-foot (7.6 m) whale that stranded in Macau. Today, we would go to extraordinary efforts and spare no cost to rescue the whale and help it out to sea. Back in 1933 attitudes were a bit different, however…

“Much excitement was created in the little fishing hamlet of Tsam Mang Chin, not far from the Macao Barrier Gate, when a whale, 25 feet long, drifted ashore and was left high and dry on the beach when the tide went out.
The villagers were all activity, when the monster was sighted, and measures were promptly taken to prevent its escape. The whale was soon dragged higher up the beach, where it was killed, and operations to convert the oil and remains into cash were immediately carried out.

All day long, villagers from the surrounding country trooped into the hamlet to buy the whale oil and the flesh until nothing was left of the monster excepting the bones.

A fee was later charged for viewing the skeleton.

Some idea of the size of the whale may be gathered from the fact that a thousand catties [500 kg] of oil and twice the amount of flesh were sold by the captors.”

(Hong Kong Telegraph February 3rd, 1933)

These days, however, a “big whale” in Macau refers to big-ticket casino gamblers from mainland China. But with the anti-corruption campaign ongoing in China, the new “big whales” seem to be facing the same sort of steep decline that the real whales faced in the 20th century!

Taipo Whale Identified as Recently Discovered Omura’s Whale

A dead ten-metre whale that washed up near Tai Po in March has been identified as an Omura’s Whale specimen (also known as dwarf fin whale), a species that science knows very little about, reports Apple Daily.
In fact, until this discovery, only nine whales have been genetically confirmed to be of the Omura’s Whale species, which was discovered only in 2003.
Over the past nine months, researchers at CityU have been preparing the whale’s bones to be put on display on their campus. But due to the size of the carcass – it weighed 25 tons when it was first found – the process is still ongoing.
The backbreaking work includes soaking the bones for months and boiling them over 20 times.
CityU is planning on displaying the entire five-ton skeleton in front of its library.

Source: Apple Daily via Coconuts HK 23/12/2014

Featured image: Ocean Park Conservation Fund

Pygmy Sperm Whale Stranding near Sha Tau Kok

A 3.3 m long, 386 kg whale was found by hikers on Friday (26th September 2014) on the rocky shoreline at Fung Hang village near Sha Tau Kok (NE New Territories). Due to the remote location of the site, AFCD staff decided to suspend the investigation, as night fell. Officers tied the dead whale with a rope to fix it on the beach and prevent it from drifting away during the rising tide. Experts joined the investigation the following day to identify the dead whale species and the cause of death.

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Images by Ocean Park Conservation Fund. 9/2014.

The whale did not have any obvious fatal wounds or signs of infection, but had begun to rot and some of the gray-black skin was peeing off.
A preliminary veterinary inspection suggests that it is a pygmy sperm whale (Kogia breviceps).

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The Pygmy Sperm Whale

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Drawing showing relative size of a Pygmy Sperm Whale and a human

This species is normally found in deep waters several hundred to a thousand meters deep such as off Taiwan’s east coast. Hong Kong waters are only tens of meters deep, so pygmy sperm whales generally do not live or pass through Hong Kong. Most likely the whale got lost or was already dying while passing by Hong Kong waters and then drifted in to shore.

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Image: News163.com

Skin , teeth, subcutaneous fat , heart, reproductive system and muscle samples were taken for further testing and City University of Hong Kong will receive the whale carcasses to produce bone specimens.

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Map by Mingpao Daily.

A Stranded Whale near Hong Kong, Supertyphoon Rammasun And Photoshopped Soldiers

A three-meter whale weighing four tons was stranded on a beach in the city of Yangjiang (about 230 km west of Hong Kong), in Guangdong province, on July 19, 2014. Local police officers and soldiers helped the whale back into the waters after it was washed ashore by waves during super typhoon Rammasun which hit Southern China. It was the strongest typhoon to hit the region in four decades, and brought gales and downpours.

The 3-m stranded whale at Yangjiang, Guandong Province. [Photo/IC]
Some media outlets (West Palm Beach TV , NBC Netwwork) initially reported it as a “killer whale” (Orcinus orca), but it is actually  a juvenile baleen whale – either a Fin, Bryde’s or Sei Whale (the pictures unfortunately don’t show enough details). China Daily also praises the police and soldiers for rescuing the animal, but the pictures show quite clearly that most of the manpower actually came from life guards.

Click here for the CCTV News video report

As the smallest baleen whales can be ruled out, the size of the individual means its a juvenile, perhaps even recently born. Although the efforts to save the whale are admirable, I suspect that separated from its mother and her milk this calf will highly likely die soon.

image: CCTV News
image: CCTV News
image: CCTV News
image: CCTV News
image: CCTV News
image: CCTV News
image: CCTV News
image: CCTV News

CCTV also included an image, not seen elsewhere on the web, showing soldiers rescuing the whale, although the image looks quite photoshopped and the weather seems much brighter in that one image….quite why anyone has to manipulate the image here I can’t understand, there is no political connotation here that I can recognize…

The most pointless photoshopping image ever. Suddenly the weather is brighter and the sldiers somehow stand out from the image more clearly. But whats the point?
The most pointless photoshopping image ever. Suddenly the weather is brighter and the soldiers somehow stand out from the image more clearly. But whats the point?

(Source: China Daily, 20/7/2014, and CNTV 20/7/2014)

Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society’s 10 year Anniversary Exhibition

To commemorate their 10th anniversary HKDCS HAS organised the “Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society 10th Anniversary Exhibition” with the MAC Gallery. The exhibition will feature more than 100 paintings from children, including the themes “dolphin habits”, “Dolphin House” and “My threats”.
Details in the below poster.

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Hong Kong – San Francisco International Ocean Film Festival 2014

The 3rd Annual HK-SF Int’l Ocean Film Festival will have a warm-up event on April 29th at iSquare in Tsim Sha Tsui, with the main events to be held from May 6th – May 11th. Among several films shown will be the film Blackfish about Orcas in captivity, as well as a 3 min short about the beauty of Hoi Ha Wan where one of HK’s marine parks is.

Film List & Summary here